Look To Your Baptism

If you had to talk to another Christian about some sin in his life and the fact that he is presuming upon God’s grace, where would you begin the discussion? Go ahead, think about it. I’ll give you a minute.... 

Some might begin by questioning the salvation of the person. The question might be, “Has there ever been a time in your life when you prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus into your heart?” Others might not go that far, but may appeal to the person on the basis that he knows this isn’t the right thing to do. In our Protestant, evangelical world (which is the world in which I live) we will, normally, appeal to almost anything except what the apostle Paul appeals to in Romans 6: baptism. 

For Baptists, if the person isn’t living right, that might mean that he “didn’t get his baptism on the right side of his conversion.” Consequently, his baptism didn’t mean anything. To appeal to his baptism would be useless because it was just an empty, external rite. For the Reformed, well, we’re too busy all the time telling you what baptism doesn’t mean. “Baptism doesn’t mean you’re saved.” “Baptism certainly doesn’t mean this, and baptism most certainly doesn’t mean that.” By the time some of our brothers are finished telling us what baptism doesn’t mean, we start wondering why God is wasting our time with it!

We Protestants are a little afraid of water. We’re afraid that if we speak like Paul in Romans 6 that we will be misunderstood. His language is too strong and absolute. “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him in the baptism into the death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, even so we also might walk in newness of life.” No qualifications. No, “If you got your baptism on the right side of your conversion” talk. No, “Well, you know baptism can’t mean that.” Baptism is participation in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Period. Full stop. No way to get out of it. Baptism changes you. 

Some have tried to wriggle out of this language by saying that Paul is referring to some invisible inner work of the Spirit on the hearts of individuals. Paul is only speaking to those who have really been baptized; wink, wink, nod, nod. There are many problems with that. Paul has never met these people. He is writing based on what he actually knows about them and what they know about one another: they have all been baptized ... with water. They don’t know everything that is going on in the hearts of one another. But he and they both know that they have all been baptized ... with water. His appeal to them is to live in accordance with what has happened in this baptism.

Your baptism has meaning. It doesn’t matter what you were feeling or not feeling at the time. It doesn’t matter if you were an infant, a teenager, or an adult. Your baptism means that you have become a part of Christ’s people. And it means that because God gives it that meaning. You don’t give baptism meaning. Baptism is not yours to give meaning. You receive it from God. It is his work, not your work or even the work of the person who baptized you.

Because of this you can’t blow off your baptism by making it dependent on the meaning you give it. God re-defined your life in your baptism. You have obligations. The first, foremost, and fundamental obligation is that you respond to the gift of God with allegiance to Christ Jesus; that is, biblical faith. He is your Lord. Do what he says. If you don’t, the consequences are bad and everlasting. We should handle the gift of baptism with great caution. Don’t presume upon God’s grace. 

But there is a flip-side to this. God defining you by baptism is also a great comfort. Baptism is God’s word to you in water. You belong to him. It is not dependent upon how you felt at the time or if you did this or that “just right.” Your heart will constantly be deceiving you, calling into question the promises of God in your relationship with him. Your guilt over confessed sin will keep you guessing if you really have a relationship with God. Baptism tells you, “You belong to God in Christ. Now trust him and continue to fight to overcome sin.” That is basically the message of Romans 6. That is God’s word to you.

Will we be misunderstood if we take the trek of the apostle Paul and appeal to someone’s baptism for caution and comfort? No doubt. But should we neglect the Scriptural appeal to baptism and replace it with our own conjured up traditions of men out of fear? By not means!

Look to your baptism, and hear God’s word to you.